Pfizer’s Zoloft Falls Into Shortage as Virus Strains Supplies

June 1, 2020, 6:11 PM

One of the most widely prescribed antidepressants in the U.S. has fallen into short supply, as demand increases due to mental-health strains caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Food and Drug Administration added Zoloft tablets to its list of drugs in shortage on Friday. Zoloft, which is sold under the generic name sertraline, was first approved in the U.S. in 1991. It’s used to treat a range of conditions, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and posttraumatic-stress disorder.

The pandemic has increased concerns over the fragility of the global supply chain and the capacity of manufacturers to respond to spikes in demand for certain therapies. Other drugs, including hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial medication touted by President Donald Trump as a Covid-19 treatment, have also experienced supply disruptions in recent weeks.

Isolation and anxiety triggered by the coronavirus have heightened demand for mental-health services. Zoloft prescriptions climbed 12% year-over-year to 4.9 million in March, the most ever in the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence. Prescriptions receded to 4.5 million in April.

Pfizer Inc. said some versions of its name-brand Zoloft, such as 100 milligram tablets in 100-count bottles, were scarce because of higher demand, according to the FDA’s drug-shortage database.

Additionally, generic-drug firms that produce sertraline told the FDA that they weren’t able to get enough active pharmaceutical ingredient, or API, to make the drug. Lupin Ltd. said it expects its sertraline to be on backorder for a few months, and Accord Healthcare said it anticipates the shortage will last for two months.

Drugmakers typically don’t disclose where they get active pharmaceutical ingredients, or API. Lupin and Accord didn’t respond to questions about where the API in their versions of sertraline is made.

A Pfizer spokesperson said the company produces its own active ingredients for Zoloft.

--With assistance from Cynthia Koons.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Anna Edney in Washington at aedney@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Drew Armstrong at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net

Timothy Annett

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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